Icelandic horses are an object of national pride and one of the symbols of the country. You can find those horses almost everywhere you go in Iceland. Icelandic horses tend to be up to 144 cm tall (57 inches), stocky, and have long mane and tail. However, they are not to be confused with ponies. The Icelandic horses display two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and gallop that are commonly displayed by other breeds; the additional gaits are an ambling gait known as the tölt and a pace called a skeið. The Icelandic is well-balanced and can easily overcome sharp stones, ice floes, and small rivers.
The breed was brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th-10th centuries. Because of the limited space on ships, Vikings chose short and small horses.
Horses played a significant part in Norse mythology, and, according to legend, Icelandic horses descended from the eight-footed pacer named Sleipnir, owned by Odin, chief of the Norse gods.
In 982 AD the Icelandic Althing (parliament) passed laws prohibiting the importation of horses into Iceland to prevent the spread of diseases and crossbreeding. Thanks to the law, the breed has now been bred pure in Iceland for more than 1,000 years. Iceland is the only country in the world that prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.
Previously, for violation of the above law there was a death penalty which was abolished in 1928.